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factory notion of his power or of his influence: and even if they had been well reported, the whole character of his speaking, as well as the nature of the subjects which he unfolded with the greatest skill and success, would scarcely command permanent sympathy. Their very excellence in their own day would endanger their chance of being read hereafter. For this is the inevitable destiny of most parliamentary eloquence; that which gives it authority in its own day is fatal to its immortality. Excepting under extraordinary exigencies, such eloquence, to convince, must dwell exclusively on the present, the immediate—it must spring out of the interests, the thoughts, the actual business of the day; and as these interests pass away, as new affairs arise, or as affairs of the same kind are affected by different circumstances, it becomes unintelligible-it speaks of things obsolete: either the point which it argues has been carried, or is no longer thought of; the information which it gave is become part of the common stock of knowledge, the new and bold views have become trite and familiar; the arguments which it confuted, the sophistries it unravelled, the personal allusion, the subtle reticences, the fine touches, require a commentary. The best commendation, that the whole speech was directly to the purpose, now that the purpose is but dimly known, becomes a cause of obscurity—the scene has changed, and everything is seen from a different point of view.
Eloquence, to live, must deal in broad general views; it must devote itself to the exposition of great principles, and the prophetic anticipation of the working out of those principles on the future destiny of the speaker's country, or of mankind at large; and of these more profound but speculative arguments the Houses of Parliament are most fastidiously, perhaps wisely, impatient. If it appeals to passions, it must be to the common, eternal, unsilenced, inextinguishable passions of our nature; not to the mere transient excitements of the day. Burke alone excites the wonder of posterity; and Burke spoke to empty benches. Burke rarely carried a question, yet he alone still thrills us with his power. Of Pitt, except his slave-trade speech, there is scarcely one which we can detach from the affairs of the time. Of Sheridan's famous speech, being a speech almost entirely on evidence, there is indeed scarcely a vestige; but it perished, no doubt, partly because its occasion had passed away: if we had it, word for word, we are so imperfectly informed, or so uninterested in the minuter points of the charges against Mr. Hastings, that the utmost praise it would extort from us would be that of ingenuity, copiousness, precision;
and perhaps before the end, we should be heartily tired of those very excellencies. We listen, in fact, to speeches, in theory at least, for conviction-we read them for emotion, for admiration;
our conviction at least is sought on broader and more general grounds; we have not to act or vote upon it—it is in most cases purely speculative. Men, therefore, in the usual course of things, unless the great eternal social principles, the fundamental truths of our nature, come under the discussion of a popular assembly, must choose between the useful and the enduring, the respect and gratitude of their own day or the wonder of posterity. But if, instead of prompt payment in the current money of respect, public confidence, famemperhaps the more substantial remuneration of official trust and dignity--they accept long-drawn bills on posterity, they must remember how few of these there are which are honoured by this late acceptance-how capricious and prone to repudiation posterity must be-how unable indeed to satisfy in full the demands made upon it-how embarrassed by conflicting claims—and perhaps disposed to new theories of value. The former is the practical, attainable object, of good abilities, industry, and upright conduct : the latter the rare privilege of a very small heaven-gifted and heaven-timed aristocracy.
Art. V.-The Waldenses, or the Fall of Rora: a Lyrical
Sketch. With other Poems. By Aubrey De Vere. Oxford.
1842. 12mo. WE have heard from the eldest of our living poets the remark
that there is in the poetry of the young a charm of youthfulness which, however far it may be from compensating for youth's imperfections, is still not to be met with in the poetical products of the maturer mind. It may be added, that there is also a knowledge to be derived from the poetry of a rising generation which other poetry cannot yield. We know from the general cast and character of it what spirit is abroad amongst our literary and meditative youth-amongst the many who, though not gifted with any poetical utterance of their own, are nevertheless one in spirit with those that are. And this is an important class to be acquainted with for those who would look a little before them and anticipate the flower and the fruit which this bud of poetry may seem to promise-the influence over literature and society likely to be exercised by the spirit which dictates this poetry when it shall have passed on to maturity.
Those who have thought it worth while to observe the nascent poetical spirit of the last few years will have perceived that it is very different from that which ruled the poetical youth of twenty years ago. At that period there was not only a want of moral
and spiritual truth in our juvenile poetry, but also an absence of moral and spiritual doctrine, whether true or false. There seemed to be no consciousness on the part of the aspirant that either his reader or himself were to have any share in the higher interests or the deeper nature of man. Superficial beauty and sentimental passion filled up the circle of his aims: the Thalassian Venus did not, according to the apologue, bring him to the Uranian; and, invoking the former deity only, she heard him according to her kind; she 'gave him his desire, and sent a leanness into his soul withal.' These effeminacies, if not altogether extinct, have at all events ceased to be the prevailing characteristic. The sorry sensibilities of twenty years ago have given place to higher moods and worthier endeavours· For now 'tis stale to sigh, to weep and
groan, So woe hath wearied woe, moan tired moan.' Middle age has overtaken the aspirants who had nothing to show us but the complexion of youth; and from the juvenile poets who are suceeding to them, perhaps the last thing that we should look for is the merely erotic effusion, the love-elegy, or
serenate which the starved lover sings
To his proud fair, best quitted with disdain.' Nevertheless, these rising poets have faults enough of their own; amongst which we should say that the most prevalent are obscurity, subtlety, and forced thinking:
The poetry in Mr. De Vere's volume bears upon the face of it the evidence of having been produced at different periods of youthful life. Against none of it do we bring the charge of forced thinking, for there is apparent throughout an easy and spontaneous activity of thought: some of it, however, appears to us to be chargeable with obscurity and subtlety, and the abundance of the author's resources has often betrayed him into a crowding and compressing of thoughts, insomuch that those which are worthy to stand conspicuously, will often want room and development. We find this fault with not a few of the miscellaneous poems, and these we should conceive to be the product of a period of youthful genius when all manner of thoughts find a place in the mind, but when the great and small have not yet adjusted themselves according to their due proportions. Others of the miscellaneous poems we attribute to a later period, when this adjustment has taken place;—whilst the · Lyrical Sketch' which occupies the first ninety-two pages of the volume, or about onethird of the whole, appears to us to have both the defects and the charms of an earlier period than either--a want of firmness of
hand and tone in the execution of the dramatic colloquy, with much force and ardour under the excitement of the lyrical movements, a love of beauty above all things, and a fresh sympathy with the elementary feelings of our nature.
Whatever the faults may be which we attribute to that portion (and it is not the larger portion) of Mr. De Vere's poetry which we conceive to be more or less juvenile, it is impossible to doubt that the volume as a whole establishes his claim to be heard, and all that we propose to do is to set this claim before our readers, and leave it to find what acceptance it may.
The Waldenses, or the Fall of Rora,' though entitled " Lyrical Sketch,' is lyrical in part only, the groundwork of the piece being laid in dramatic colloquy and in blank verse. It is in three acts, and may be described as a Romanesque modification of the Greek tragedy. The story is founded upon the persecution and massacre of the Waldenses which took place in the year
1655, the same which gave occasion to Milton's celebrated sonnet; and the materials, treated in the spirit of a purely dramatic representation, would have been deeply and distressingly tragic. Mr. De Vere's genius, on the contrary, is buoyant and elastic, redolent of joy and youth,' delighting in images of tenderness and beauty, intolerant of despondency, and exulting in the strength and fervours of religious hope. A very veritable representation of such a subject by such a writer could hardly have been successful, and Mr. De Vere has cast his poem in a form rather ideal than realising, and more lyrical than dramatic.
The valley of Rora, where the scene is laid, is presented to us in the first act and part of the second, as teeming with cheerful sights and sounds : there are glowing lights, flashing streams, trellised huts, and wood-walks, and birds, and flowers, and rainbows; the rocks are musical; the forests and the glaciers are bright with the hues of the rising or the setting sun; there are shepherds and shepherdesses, and old men, and troops of children, rejoicing in a world that is full of blessings, and celebrating their joy and thanksgiving by day and night in matins and vespers and nocturns. These scenes are crossed by others in which a weak cardinal and a wicked abbot carry forward their machinations, preparing, by fraudulent pretexts and assurances, a way into the valleys for the military force. Towards the middle of the second act the aspect of things becomes threatening and warlike; the peasants are aroused to a sense of their danger; but the spirit of liberty springs up amongst them in its sanguine and animated mood, and hitherto there is nothing of anxiety or gloom. But towards the end of this act, Agnes, the heroine (who with others had been seized by the abbot as a hostage), is led to the stake, and the scene approaches
the verge of painful and horrible realities, when suddenly it escapes into lyrical strains, alternated between the martyr and a chorus of angels, and typifying the triumph of faith and hope and religious rapture over bodily pain. In like manner throughout the third act, as the tragic element comes to predominate more and more, the form which it assumes becomes more and more idealized, more and more lyrical, and even at the last the horrors of the catastrophe are surmounted by the immortal aspirations and moral glories of the victims, and there is more of beauty in the storm-lights than of terror in the storm.
Our first extract shall be a few stanzas from one of the effusions which we have described as chiefly characteristic of the first act and the earlier scenes of the second :
How dim, how still this slumbering wood !
And O, how sweetly rise
Their odours to the skies!
Where thoughts, that hide their hues
The night-wind sweeps along;
To a prelusive song;
Who makes our labour cease;
And hearts devout with peace.'—p. 34. From the scenes which are in blank verse we will take one passage, -an exposition of the meaning of liberty by a Waldensian chief :
It means man's duty so to tread the earth,
VOL. LXXII. NO. CXLIII.